Officials see a positive side to ‘gentrification’

By Alberto Gilman
Posted 10/13/21

City of Newburgh Mayor Torrance Harvey is working closely with the police department in the investigation of the unknown ‘Gentrification Notice’ tagger. On Saturday, Sept. 25, a notice …

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Officials see a positive side to ‘gentrification’

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City of Newburgh Mayor Torrance Harvey is working closely with the police department in the investigation of the unknown ‘Gentrification Notice’ tagger.
On Saturday, Sept. 25, a notice was posted on a variety of business windows. The ‘Gentrification Notice’ called out the various businesses for being inaccessible and were told to leave the city.

For Mayor Harvey, while he sees the tagging as an act of vandalism, he also sees it as an invitation to a conversation with the culprit, open to dialogue about this issue on a middle ground.

From an educator’s perspective, the ideology of gentrification can be viewed in both a negative and positive light.

On one side gentrification brings in new residents and businesses while on the other side, those who have been here before are resistant to change and fear displacement, Harvey discussed.

Over the course of the previous year, Harvey and the city council have worked with The Leviticus Fund to assess the housing needs of the city and develop further plans without displacement of city residents. This project was a thorough study on the housing landscape and residential breakdown of Newburgh.

The full report can be found at cityofnewburgh-ny.gov/578/Housing-Needs-Assessment.

As the negative narrative of Newburgh shifts in a different direction, Harvey is glad to see abandoned buildings being renovated, revitalizing the city for the future in the days to come. “I have never given up on this city and I never will give up on this city,” Harvey said. “The city means a lot to me.”

Councilwoman Patricia Sofokles is also aware of the postings on Liberty Street.

“If businesses are here to bring good products and services to the city,” Sofokles says, “we welcome them with open arms.”

These conversations and concerns don’t stop at just the signs but continue on through council meetings and other spaces.

“I hear it all,” Sofokles said. “I want to be inclusive in everything. I don’t let the negativity pull me down, never have, never will.”

Councilman At-Large Anthony Grice is also aware of the notices that were placed on the various windows on Liberty Street. He said elected officials cannot dictate business pricing or asking people not to come into the area and establish a business.

“What we need in the City of Newburgh is we need a small business hub that supports our entrepreneurs that are already in the city,” Grice said.
Grice believes that this hub will help entrepreneurs fix credit, find locations and help with marketing for the business. “We have some talented people in the City of Newburgh,” said Grice.

Grice also believes that keeping houses and buildings up to code and staying in constant communication with landlords helps move the city forward with its various development projects.

Lisa Silverstone, Executive Director of Safe Harbors of the Hudson, recognizes the negative impact of the term, but the movement of businesses into the area is beneficial when balanced within policy.

Like many nonprofits in the Newburgh area, Safe Harbors is dedicated to the well being and safety of those community members who are coming from homelessness.

For other residents, this is an issue that must be addressed more frequently in the community, at every council meeting.

Schnekwa McNeil-Parker has lived in the City of Newburgh for the last 51 years. As an advocate for her community, she defines gentrification as “a takeover, not a makeover.”

In recent years, McNeil-Parker has seen her neighborhood welcome new residents, whereas her neighborhood before was mostly black.

As an advocate, McNeil-Parker is happy for diversity but when it comes to communication between various parties and sharing concerns, it is met with unacknowledgement.

“Everything seems to have fallen on deaf ears,” McNeil-Parker said.
She continues to attend council meetings and other events to voice her concerns for the ongoing changes in her neighborhood. She is also continuing to reach out to her neighbors and other members of her neighborhood to voice their concerns and speak out about this conversation.

Ramona Burton of Newburgh, born in 1958, was born in the East End of the City of Newburgh. Her father was a pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church. In the mid-60s, she remembers the period of white flight that happened in Newburgh. Later, the Urban Renewal movement made its way through the city and former buildings and neighborhoods made way for new developments.

For Burton, she has seen the neighborhood change from what it once was. “It’s generational,” Burton said. “There’s been revitalization periods over the last, what, probably, 20, 30, 40 years.”

In this day and age, Burton has entered various spaces to discuss the topic of gentrification and revitalization in the city.

With time, Newburgh has welcomed various non-profit organizations to support the community, but encouraging residents to come together can help drive the uncomfortable conversation.

Genesis Ramos, a candidate for Orange County Legislature and a lifelong resident of the Newburgh area became aware of the sticker through online sources.

“I challenge people who are not from our community or business owners who are not from our community, I really challenge them to be open to these conversations so that they can understand how they can do better,” Ramos said. “Really get to know our community.”

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